Cold weather causes pipes to burst at places in West Valley and Taylorsville

“It sounded like every shower in a hotel was turned on,” said record store owner Graywhale.

(Salt Lake County Library) Emergency responders responded to a ruptured sprinkler pipe at the West Jordan branch of the Salt Lake County Library on Tuesday, January 31, 2023.

A West Jordan library and a Taylorsville record store on Tuesday were dealing with water damage from the same source: fire-fighting sprinkler system malfunctions, spurred by bitterly cold temperatures.

The water damage occurred at the Salt Lake County Library’s West Jordan Branch Book Dispensary and at Graywhale Entertainment in Taylorsville.

The malfunction in the drive-thru bookroom — at the Viridian Events Center, 8030 S. 1825 West in West Jordan — set off the fire alarm and prompted the building to be evacuated Tuesday, said Sara Neal, marketing and communications director for the county library system.

“We’ve since found out that one of the pipes in the fire sprinkler system burst because it was so cold,” Neal said. “That set off the alarm.”

The alarm then set off the sprinklers, soaking the library and damaging what Neal estimated to be fewer than 100 books, as well as other library materials. A facility crew was on site shortly after the alarm went off, and the library branch was closed for the rest of the day.

The sprinklers didn’t have a significant impact on the library as a whole, Neal said, adding that the district system will monitor other branches that have drive-through book dumps — particularly if temperatures remain below freezing.

The industry opened again Wednesday morning, although people dropping off books had to go inside the building.

Also on Tuesday, about five miles away in Taylorsville, Graywhale Entertainment was having its own firefighting equipment problems. The sprinklers flooded the store, which houses various types of audio media, including vinyl records and CDs.

Video from the store’s Instagram account shows water pouring from the ceiling onto the sidewalk outside and employees using brooms to push water out the front door.

a thread sent The store’s Twitter account detailed that the flooding came through the front of the store, crashing through windows and walls and settling on the floor. Many of the store’s vinyl and CD tables sustained no damage due to the raised tables, and the checkout area suffered the most damage.

In an email update, owner Dustin Hansen told The Tribune that the store suffered “severe electrical and structural damage.” Hansen said they intend to reopen this weekend or early next week.

“It was a rough and wild day. We were lucky not to lose much product,” Hansen wrote in his email. “My incredible staff came into action and we were able to make things happen. The drain from the burst pipes is still draining and may take a few days to stop.”

Hansen said Wednesday that he estimates the store lost $1,000 in damaged products, while he could lose anywhere from $15,000 to $60,000 in lost revenue while the store is closed.

Buildings insurance should cover the repair costs, Hansen said, because the pipe burst outside the store. “The property management and the building owners are responsible for this [the system] serviced and code compliant,” said Hansen. “One of the issues I hear from the fire department and other people is that we have a system out there that is old and wasn’t working properly.”

Hansen said he first noticed the pipe was fully pulled out of the ceiling when he got to work Tuesday morning and called the property manager multiple times. Hansen left another message describing a leak – and about 20 minutes later, Graywhale staff heard a loud noise.

“It sounded like every shower in a hotel was turned on,” Hansen said.

Hansen said while the situation was stressful, it reminded him how lucky they are to have a community that cares so much about the store. He thanked his employees for working quickly to prevent more of the store’s inventory from being damaged.

Experts encourage businesses to service firefighting sprinkler systems ahead of winter, as freezing weather can often cause pipes to burst. Summit Fire Protection wrote in a 2020 blog post that the best way to keep systems from freezing is with a year-long maintenance. And the National Fire Alarm Code states that suppression systems should be inspected annually, but the responsibility for maintenance rests with the building owner or building manager.

Neal said the district library system is less concerned about suppression systems in younger buildings — like the Viridian Center, where the West Jordan branch is located — because they are more modern. The county is mindful of older buildings with outdated systems.

“We treat [this] as an unexpected incident due to the cold weather, and we know we will need to be aware of that going forward,” Neal said.

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